Defence Forces offer is ‘missed opportunity’ to show respect

Wives and Partners of Defence Forces group claims allowances insufficient to retain staff

A Public Sector Pay Commission report proposes a €10 million annual package to address pay issues, with the Military Service Allowance being increased by 10 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson

A Public Sector Pay Commission report proposes a €10 million annual package to address pay issues, with the Military Service Allowance being increased by 10 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The increased allowances offered to soldiers and naval personnel are a “missed opportunity to show the Defence Forces the appreciation and respect” they deserve, a campaigner has said.

Shelly Cotter, a founder of the Wives and Partners of Defence Forces group, which campaigns for better terms for Defence Forces members, said she doubted that the Public Sector Pay Commission recommendations would address a crisis in retaining personnel.

The report proposes that the Government introduces a €10 million annual package to address pay issues, with the Military Service Allowance being increased by 10 per cent, which will benefit most personnel.

The package also sees duty allowances such as for security and patrol being restored, along with premium weekend rates, while recruits and apprentices will no longer be charged for rations and accommodation.

Ms Cotter, whose husband James Cotter and son, Adam Steele, are both in the Naval Service, said: “I think it’s a missed opportunity to show the Defence Forces the appreciation and respect that should be shown to them and I genuinely don’t know if it’s enough to keep those who have been sitting waiting.

“When it comes to Naval Service, we have so many trained personnel leaving, it’s at a crisis point. We have two ships tied up at the moment and a third soon to be tied up due to lack of personnel.”

People leaving

She added: “So many people are leaving and it kind of feels it’s going to be a case of the last one out,turn off the light and lock the door. Those who have been waiting for the last year for some change won’t find it in this.”

Ms Cotter, from Cobh in Co Cork, said the wives and partners group never expected the issue of core pay to be addressed as it would leave the Government open to other public servants pushing for pay increases.

However, she said they expected greater flexibility and more meaningful increases to be offered in terms of allowances such as duty payments received by members of the Defence Forces.

She acknowledged that the duty allowances for Saturday and Sunday had been increased back to pre-recession levels with personnel getting €70 on a Saturday and €100 on Sunday, which was was welcome.

Information leak

But she said the failure to increase the duty allowances for Monday to Friday, for which serving personnel receive €20 a day for 24-hour shifts, was “a real kick in the gut”.

She said that the seagoing allowance, which works out at €2.50 a day for members of the Naval Service going to sea on patrol duty, was not something that the Government should be proud and boasting about.

“There was a leak about six or eight weeks ago about what was going to be paid and it was horrific and while what’s announced today isn’t as bad at that, it’s not a lot better,” said Ms Cotter.

“The members feel that leak was done so as to make today seem not as bad. My phone has been going all day. There is a lot of genuine anger from serving members who feel that have been played.”